Visions of Modernity:

Impressionist and Modern Collections from the Guggenheim Foundation


15.11.2012 - 17.02.2013

The transformation from private collection to public museum is an extraordinary one. For the Guggenheim this process began in 1937, when Solomon R. Guggenheim (1861–1949) established a foundation in New York with the goal of opening a museum to exhibit his holdings of modern art.

The institution’s collection has since expanded through major gifts and purchases from pioneering contemporaries who also sought radical experimentation and innovation in art. These acquisitions include the extensive Expressionist art inventory from gallerist Karl Nierendorf (1889–1947); unparalleled collection of abstract and Surrealist work from Peggy Guggenheim (1898–1979); array of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces from dealer-collector Justin K. Thannhauser (1892–1976); and key bequests from museum organizers Katherine S. Dreier (1877–1952) and Hilla Rebay (1890–1967). Highlights from the individual compilations of these six visionaries have been united in the exhibition Visions of Modernity: Impressionist and Modern Collections from the Guggenheim Foundation in order to illuminate a rich and fertile period for avant-garde art.

In the late 19th century, the rebellious Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists turned away from academic genres and techniques and explored the fleeting effects of nature and urban life. Artists further investigated themes such as alienation, technological development, and the spectacle of the changing city in the first decades of the 20th century, and stylistic innovations abounded. Paul Cézanne’s geometrized compositions inspired Pablo Picasso and others to employ the simplified, faceted forms and flattened spatial planes associated with Cubism, even as the École de Paris (School of Paris), which included Robert Delaunay, investigated simultaneity of both perception and the passage of time. Meanwhile, German Expressionists such as Vasily Kandinsky and Franz Marc sought to convey spiritual states and inner psychological truths through abstracted forms. Between the two world wars, experimental approaches to abstraction that stressed clarity and precision emerged. The Russian Suprematists and Constructivists, including El Lissitzky, emphasized geometric forms in an effort to establish a universal aesthetic language. The utopian view that art could be harnessed for collective social reform was reflected in many artists’ affiliation with the Bauhaus (1919–33). The Surrealists attempted to give form to Freudian notions of repressed desires, dream imagery, and the unconscious mind, and also practiced automatism. These works form the core of the Guggenheim Foundation’s holdings.

In its 15-year history, the Deutsche Guggenheim has similarly enriched the foundation’s original modern collection—not to mention its global identity—by commissioning new work by some of the most exciting living artists in the early 21st century. Such major acquisitions allow the Guggenheim to present a dynamic cross-section of modern and contemporary art today and reaffirm its founders’ mission to promote the art of tomorrow.
With Visions of Modernity, the Deutsche Guggenheim not only celebrates six risk-taking collectors' commitment to the artists whose work has come to represent the hallmarks of modernism, but also reaffirms its own enduring mission to promote the art of tomorrow.

Megan Fontanella, Associate Curator, Collections and Provenance


Factsheet (pdf) Press release (pdf) Edition (pdf) Press images (pdf) Flyer (pdf) Program for children, youths and families (pdf) DG Magazine (pdf) Photo Service The Collectors Commissioned Works




Robert Delaunay
Simultaneous Windows (2nd Motif, 1st Part), 1912

Wassily Kandinsky
Painting with White Border, May 1913
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012

Franz Marc
Stables, 1913

Visions of Modernity
Picture Gallery: 13 photos


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